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New education green paper – summary

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The new education Green Paper 14-19: Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards was published today for consultation (although most of its major elements have already been revealed). The paper suggests that: from the age of 14 young people should follow pathways tailored to their individual aptitudes and aspirations; these should include a wide range of high quality vocational and academic programmes in school, college and the workplace; more people should be encouraged to stay in learning to the age of 19 and beyond; there should be an overarching award available to young people to recognise the breadth and depth of achievement by the age of 19.

Other priorities are
- increasing challenge at ‘A’ level by incorporating more demanding ‘Distinction’ questions into both vocational and academic subjects so that the highest achievers can be given full recognition
- increasing flexibility to ensure that individuals can learn at a pace which is right for them with high achievers on a fast-track to success
- loosening up the curriculum with young people post-14 able to pursue individually focused programmes (Maths, English, ICT and Science will remain compulsory, languages will not but schools would be obliged to make them available)
- building parity of status between vocational and academic GCSEs and ‘A’ levels
- providing individually tailored support through Connexions which will focus on giving help and support for those who need it most

The introduction of GCSEs in vocational subjects would constitute a major re-evaluation of vocational education. Unions and employers' bodies have already welcomed this. GCSEs in vocational subjects will be available in 8 subjects: Applied Art and Design; Applied Business; Engineering; Health and Social Care; Applied Information and Communication Technology; Leisure and Tourism; Manufacturing; and Applied Science. They will be launched in September 2002.

The flexibility of offering vocational and non-vocational subjects together is matched by a new approach to speed of learning, which proposes that "young people will be able to develop at a pace consistent with their abilities, whether faster or slower." However, these plans are likely to be designed in such a way as to avoid charges of wholesale selection: "schools and individual pupils are best placed to decide how to support the progress of these pupils."

These plans will depend on increased collaboration "as we do not expect every school or college by itself to offer the extended range of options." Support and participation from companies will also be needed, given the higher emphasis on work-related learning. Some funding will be available for this.

Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris said: "This visionary document will change the shape of post-14 learning. We should no longer tolerate a culture that devalues vocational learning and squanders the talent of too many young people. I want to see a vocational renaissance that captures the imagination of young people and challenges prejudice. For decades our ‘A’ level system has been recognised as the gold standard. I want to strengthen it, with a new challenge for the brightest pupils. A new ‘Distinction’ level will stretch the most talented and strengthen the ‘A’ level."

"It is vital that we inspire our young people with ambition and aspiration. We will not achieve this is if we continue to force them into an educational straitjacket that stifles their talents rather than develops their potential. I want to set our high achievers free from the rigid structures of the past. I want to foster excellence. Ours is a radical agenda that challenges long-held educational traditions and we will be consulting through to the summer on how best to implement it. Our continued economic success and social cohesion depends on us meeting that challenge. Working closely with all those who are involved in post-14 education and training will ensure that we remain a major global competitor."

TUC General Secretary, John Monks, has commented: "We very much welcome a bigger and better role for vocational education and training in schools, which will open up greater opportunities for all children. The Green paper includes some bold proposals, however we must ensure
that all children are entitled to a broad based curriculum and that these changes do not lead to a two tier education system - one for academic high achievers and another for the rest."


The DfES has also produced a document outlining the department's internal planning for the future.


This is a consultation document, so what do you think? Add your comments below.

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